It's good to know that in a world of wash-and-wear clothing the honorable art of fine sewing hasn't completely disappeared. Much like the exquisite embroidery that my mother-in-law applied to smocked garments for her grandchildren, born in the '50s, some of Kitty Benton's "classics" are for special occasions and seem almost guaranteed to turn any child into a little prince or princess. Others seem eminently suitable for today's sports-oriented society.
A graduate of the French Fashion Academy who is the U.S. children's-wear consultant for Laura Ashley Ltd., Benton divides her quite gorgeous book, with its glossy paper and generous full-color photos, into "projects." The supposition is that you know a pleat from a placket and, having sewn before, can choose to whip up a corduroy jumper, a gingham shirt, a charming baby's bonnet or perhaps a velvet party dress, elegantly set off with a ruffled collar.
For outdoor activities, there are patterns for a jogging suit or warm-up suit with kangaroo pockets, a nifty beach jacket or turtleneck jersey, besides sewing directions for undies and sleepwear.
Each chapter, beginning with a drawing of the finished garment, includes tips on handling different fabrics and clear-as-day sewing instructions.
In addition to chapters on smocking and embroidery, there are sections on tailoring and pattern making. From only seven basic patterns, you can customize clothing for hard-to-fit children or sew without fittings or even turn inventive and create your own designs.
A veritable work of art, "Classic Designs" makes me wish I had chosen the needle over the typewriter.